Jim Shelley & Book Of Kills

One of the True Giants Passes

I'm sure you're all aware that Chuck Berry has passed. He was 90. If you love alternative rock, thank Chuck. If you love classic rock, thank Chuck. If you love metal, thank Chuck. If you like punk, thank Chuck. You know what I'm saying. Chuck Berry was THE seminal figure in the birth of rock and roll. Although he only wrote, at least according to several of the obituaries I read, perhaps 100-150 songs, everything that came later owes a debt to him. His early '80s greatest hits compilation, The Great Twenty-Eight, is essential. No, he wasn't a saint. But are you? I'm not. Yeah, he was a bit of a strange dude, but most geniuses are. Something that he often doesn't get credit for is the quality of his lyrics. They were far more literate and imaginative than most of the tripe that was being written in the mid-'50s. And the fact, that fairly early on in his musical life he made it plain that he was going to write his own material (and perform it better than anyone else) and he was going to have total control over his career from booking gigs to negotiating royalties and concert fees.

Seven quotations from Chuck Berry:

"Science and religion are both the same thing. They're there; they're life. If it's not science, it's not a fact."

"Music is music; you can't change rock and say well this is punk rock and this is acid rock or rockabilly."

"I'm a millionaire, but I cut the grass. And each time I cut it, it's my grass. And that is satisfying."

"If the people in the audience are talking, you're being ignored. If the people are gazing at you, you've got something they want to hear."

"A song is a song. But there are some songs, ah, some songs are the greatest. The Beatles song 'Yesterday'. Listen to the lyrics."

"My music is simple stuff. Anybody can sit down, look at a set of symbols and produce sounds the music represents."

"Of the five most important things in life, health is first, education or knowledge is second, and wealth is third. I forget the other two."